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A Ministry of Spiritual Discernment and Direction


This website provides information for you to use on your spiritual journey. It also offers support in your individual and community based spiritual formation. These pages are a labor of love. I truly hope you will find insights and encouragement here.

If you know of links that are particularly useful on the spiritual journey, please let me know so I can include them in the Resources section. As time permits, I enjoy responding to individual correspondence.

WELCOME WARMLY to this site. I am a Spiritual Director in the Christian tradition. I trained in the three-year ecumenical Souljourners Spiritual Formation/Spiritual Direction Certificate Program at Mount Saint Scholastica Monastery in Atchison, KS. My ministry is commissioned by my local American Baptist faith community. I am open to walking the spiritual journey with persons from all faith traditions and have found much blessing in working with people from many different spiritual backgrounds.

Blessings and God's Peace.

Gordon Haynes

Spiritual Director & Member of Spiritual Directors International


(Please visit the Resources page where there is a feedback form. I would love to hear your ideas about this site and your stories about living the spiritual journey.)

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  • A SIMPLE DEFINITION OF TERMS
  • SPIRITUAL FORMATION
  • SPIRITUAL DIRECTION
  • INDIVIDUATION
  • LIFE TRANSITIONS

Please scroll down to find short discussions of these topics.

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SPIRITUAL -- Having to do with the deepest experiences of our existence. Often we are not aware of the spiritual depth within us and the divine breath that sustains and invites us toward wholeness in our lives.

LIFE -- All that we are, have been or hope to become. Our spiritual life, in particular, is involved directly with that God-spark within and all around us. In the Christian tradition, our greatest example of the whole, individuated, life is that of Jesus Christ, our brother and guide.

TRANSITIONS -- The changes we encounter due to the natural rhythms of life, as well as those unexpected changes we inevitably must embrace because of our humanity. The learnings we bring from these transitions help form our understanding of and our sensitivity to God's presence in our lives.

SPIRITUAL LIFE TRANSITIONS -- These are the essential building blocks of our spiritual life, gleaned from our experiences of our all too human brokenness moving mysteriously toward wholeness. We are all called to change and to grow up into God's image.

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In the Christian tradition, JESUS CHRIST, our great example, grew in stature and in favor with God and his community. Our personal life project of growth and development, especially with respect to our relationship with God and our community, involves Spiritual Formation. Many may think of such formation in terms of participating in Sunday School, reading and studying the Bible and the development of various spiritual disciplines. These activities are commendable and profitable. The essence of the concept of spiritual formation used here, however, has much more to do with our transition from a state of dependence on others for spiritual meaning to a state of ego development that allows us to accept ourself as God's beloved daughter or son and as a responsible person capable of opening ourselves to the awareness of God's presence. A community of like-minded, supportive seekers helps us greatly to so accept ourselves.

A further transition, usually gathering significant force only in the second half of life, perhaps after our sense of self-control has been challenged by a traumatic event, leads us back to a transformed sense of that dependence we moved away from toward an intimate valuing of the imago dei within us. As our foundations are shaken, as Paul Tillich has observed, we are finally ready to come to intimate terms with our full humanity, the context of our struggle. Jesus Christ himself moved through such a process to the point that he could say, "I and the Father are one."

We approach this humbling mystery carefully, relying on God's grace. The fullness of Christ's own humanity grants us understanding and wholeness. Carl Jung uses the term Individuation in much the same way I suggest thinking about spiritual formation (see the Individuation section below).

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

How have you thought about spiritual formation in your own life?

Do you resonate with these ideas about spiritual formation?

How might you define spiritual formation?

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CHRIST PANTOKRATOR (Almighty, Omnipotent One) ICON by Tikhon Filateyev, 1703The process of working with another person in the spiritual formation project of life is called spiritual direction. This practice has a long history within the Christian tradition. The Desert Fathers and Mothers of the 4th and 5th centuries, such as Antony, found themselves called to sit with others as a spiritual guide. This seems to have been a natural outgrowth of their own spiritual journey which, like Jesus, compelled them to face their desert (literally for them, perhaps more figuratively for us).

A modern concession to the enlightened independent and psychological mode of thinking, especially in Western culture, is to cast the spiritual director in the role of spiritual companion. Many spiritual directors, over the past 1500 years, have given witness to the reality that the true director is God's Spirit.

The primary role of the spiritual director is to listen with the ear of the heart, as Saint Benedict said. The spiritual director, in popular understanding today, uses her/his intuitive sense and open heart to listen for the still small voice of God's Spirit. Although the relationship between directee and director can be friendly it is not what we typically think of as friendship. The director is trained to maintain helpful boundaries that support the spiritual direction process.

Also, spiritual direction is not psychotherapy. The director is trained to recognize issues and situations which call for professional help. Although the director may be perceived by the directee as a helper, it is important to remember that the directee's relationship with God is of primary importance.

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

What is your response to the idea of working with a spiritual director?

What characteristics would you want to find in a spiritual director?

Might you be interested in spiritual direction/companionship at this point in your spiritual journey?

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Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, Copyright Benedictine Sisters, Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, KS, used with permissionCarl Jung developed the concept of Individuation to describe the process of becoming more and more aware of one's Self, that deep part of us that can only be hinted at by dreams and intuitive symbols. Awareness alone cannot describe it. Individuation also involves doing what one does with all of one's energy and creativity.

You do not just sit down one day and say, "I think I will individuate today." Rather, it demands a lifetime of opening up to the mystery of our own Self -- much the same message that spiritual formation provides in terms of deepening a loving relationship with God.

Edward Edinger, a wonderfully insightful Jungian interpreter for our time, in Ego and Archetype, puts an understandable face on the process of individuation. He opens up the possibility for us to think about our spiritual journey in depth psychological terms. He describes individuation as related to a search for meaning in our lives. "The image of Christ is rich in symbols . . . the conclusion is inescapable that the underlying meaning of Christianity is the quest for individuation."

Edinger notes that as both God and man, Christ is psychologically a symbol for the Self [the imago dei] and the ideal ego, simultaneously. Jung held Christ up as the paradigm of the Individuating Ego, noting that in John 8:28-29 Christ's image gives us a picture of the individuated ego . . . "I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak of these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him."

Jungian psychology, although not Christian in any dogmatic sense, uses powerfully the images and symbols of Christianity in a way that links depth psychology with spirituality. I encourage persons who seek a deeper identity as God's blessed child to explore the path of individuation along with traditional spiritual formation practices.

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A helpful model for examining the changes we experience in life is that presented by William Bridges in his book Transitions. He describes three essential parts: an ending, a neutral zone and a beginning. Often we think of change as starting with a new beginning, but to do so jumps over the other two necessary and important components.

Bridges builds on the work of anthropologist Victor Turner who in turn has based his ideas on the seminal thought of Arnold Van Gennep. Turner worked particularly with transitions such as initiation rites of passage. He defines the concept of liminality, which corresponds with Bridges' neutral zone. In a liminal condition (literally a threshold state, as in the limb of the moon), "what once was is no more and what is to come has not yet come into being." Living in this liminal state can be anxiety producing, since all the structures once relied upon are no longer adequate or appropriate, yet new structures have not yet been put into place to provide a sense of connectedness with life. It is in the liminal state, when we are going through feelings such as grief, loss, doubt, excitement, anxiety and confusion that we are most vulnerable, yet unexpectedly most open to God's still small voice.

John of the Cross used the term, the dark night, to describe that spiritual condition where our former set of understandings and practices no longer seem to connect us with God. We may suffer depression brought on by our ambiguous state, wondering how and why God has forsaken us. But as we wait upon God's grace, which is ever present, to sink into our emerging new consciousness, we find ourselves being transformed. A central metaphor of the Christian life is death and resurrection, in many small and large areas of our life. So it is with our spiritual life especially. 

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Images (top to bottom)

   ¤ Lake at Shantivanam House of Prayer, Easton, KS (photo by Gordon Haynes)

   ¤ Rembrandt's Head of Christ

   ¤ Christ Pantokrator Icon, Almighty, Omnipotent One by Tikhon Filateyev, 1703

   ¤ Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, Copyright Benedictine Sisters, Mount Saint Scholastica Monastery, Atchison, KS, used with permission

   ¤ Camille Flammarion's familiar woodcut suggesting the place where earth and heaven meet

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© Spiritual Life Transitions, 2005 - 2013

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